Wednesday 30 October 2019

A steam engine in the Plumstead Museum

 A steam engine in the Plumstead Museum

Some years ago I was asked by the then curator of the Plumstead Museum to inspect a mechanical object' which was lurking in an obscure corner of the museum.  The object' transpired to be a steam engine of a type known sometimes as a table engine, from the form of the construction. The feature of that name derives from the vertical cylinder being mounted on a base in the shape of a cast iron table which supports the various assemblies, horizontal crank shaft, steam valve, Watt type governor, etc. The type was first introduced by Woolwich born Henry Maudslay.  I was asked overhaul the engine and make it respectable to form an exhibit, which I was delighted to do. It eventually formed part of a specialist exhibition at the Plumstead Museum where it was spotted by a couple of enthusiasts who resolved to study the engine in some depth.

Two puzzles emerge
The dimensions raise the question, is it a model of a large engine, or is it a real engine which has been used to drive real machinery?  These dimensions are:

Height overall 28 ins
Table 10 1/2 square x 10ices high
Piston diameter 2 inches (one split brass ring)
Piston stroke 5 inches
Working pressure unknown but could be estimated by a real expert. The steam valve is cylindrical as distinct from the old flat type, which suggests a fairly high-pressure value as does the general thickness of the cylinder and valve walls.

The base has a small brass plate engraved J (or I) Chandler , Woolwich

The two industrial detectives have traced the various locations where the engine has been and possible Chandlers (which appear to be legion). The search continues and comment and criticisms would be welcome

Jack Vaughan

This article first appeared in the GIHS newsletter of April 1998

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